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Probability

Overview
In this section we will cover:

Expressing probabilities
GMAT Probability Rule #1
GMAT Probability Rule #2
GMAT Probability Rule #3
GMAT Probability Rule #4

Probability
You may encounter questions on the GMAT that ask the probability of an event
occuring. For instance:

• Sara rolls two fair, six-sided dice. What is the probability she will roll two 6s?

• Roland flip two fair coins. What is the probability that neither of the coins will
land on tails?

• A bag contains six blue marbles and six red marbles. If Teresa randomly
chooses a marble from the bag, what is the probability that the marble is
blue?
All of these problems are probability problems. Probability is a measure of the
likelihood of an event occurring.
Expressing Probability
The probability of an event occurring is expressed as a number
between 0 and 1. A probability of 0 means the event can never
happen. A probability of 1 means the event is certain to happen.

You may see probability express on the GMAT in terms of a percent, a


decimal, or a fraction. For instance, the probability of a fair coin
landing on tails can be expressed as

Fraction 1/2
Decimal .5
Percent 50%

Sometimes you may see notation similar to that below:

P(A) = 1/2

This means that the probability of an event A is 1/2.


Probability Rules
There are four probability rules you need to memorize in order to master GMAT
probability questions:

1. The probability of an event A occurring is the number of outcomes that


result in A divided by the total number of possible outcomes.

2. The probability of an event occurring plus the probability of the event not
occurring equals 1.

3. The probability of event A AND event B occurring is the probability of


event A times the probability of event B given that event A has already
occurred.

4. The probability of event A OR event B occurring is the probability of event


A occurring plus the probability of event B occurring minus the probability
of both events occurring.
The probability of an event A occurring is the number of outcomes that
result in A divided by the total number of possible outcomes.

Example: Raphael tosses a fair coin. What is the probability the coin will
come up heads?

Probability of heads = [heads]/[heads, tails]


Probability of heads = 1/2

Example: Tom rolls a fair die. What is the probability that the die will roll an
even number?

Probability of even number = [2, 4, 6]/[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]


Probability of even number = 3/6
Probability of even number = ½

Rule #2
The probability of an event occurring plus the probability of the event not
occurring equals 1.

In other words, we can say with 100% certainty that an event will either occur or not
occur. For instance, the probability of a fair, six-sided die rolling a 4 is 1/6. The
probability of the die not landing on 4 is (1 - 1/6) or 5/6. 1/6 + 5/6 = 1.

This concept can be very helpful on the GMAT. Sometimes it is easier to determine
the probability of an event not occurring than determining the probability of an event
occurring. Once your know the probability of an event not occurring, you can
subtract the probability from 1 to find the probability of an event occurring.

Rule #3
The probability of event A AND event B occurring is the probability of event
A times the probability of event B given that event A has already occurred.

Example: Joseph rolls two fair, six-sided die. What is the probability that
both die will roll a 6?

Probability of 1st die coming up 6: 1/6


Probability of 2nd die coming up 6: 1/6
Probability of both die coming up 6: (1/6) * (1/6)
Probability of both die coming up 6: 1/36

Example: A bag contains three blue marbles and three red marbles. If two
marbles are drawn randomly from the bag, what is the probability that they
are both blue?

This problem is a dependent probability. Two events are said to be dependent


events if the outcome of one event affects the outcome of the other event. The
probability of drawing the second marble depends on the outcome of the first
marble. If the first marble is red, there is no possibility of drawing two blue marbles.
Thus, the probability of drawing a second blue marble is calculated after the first blue
marble has been drawn.

Probability of drawing blue on first draw: 3/6

If a blue is drawn on the first draw, there are three red marbles and two blue
marbles remaining in the bag.

Probability of drawing blue on second draw (given that first was blue): 2/5

Probability of drawing two blue: (3/6) * (2/5)


Probability of drawing two blue: 6/30
Probability of drawing two blue: 1/5

Rule #4
The probability of event A OR event B occurring is the probability of event A
occurring plus the probability of event B occurring minus the probability of
both events occurring.

Example: Charles rolls a fair, six-sided die. What is the probability of Charles
rolling a 2 or a 4?

Probability of 2: 1/6
Probability of 4: 1/6
Probability of a 2 or 4: 1/6 + 1/6
Probability of a 2 or 4: 2/6
Probability of a 2 or 4: 1/3

In the previous problem, the events were mutually exclusive. Mutually exclusive
means that the events cannot occur together. There is no way to roll a 2 and a 4 at
the same time. The events in the following problem are NOT mutually exclusive.
Example: Of the 100 students at a certain school, 30 students are taking a
chemistry class, 40 students are taking a physics class, and 20 students are
taking both a physics and a chemistry class. If a student is chosen at
random from the school, what is the probability that he or she is taking a
physics or a chemistry class?

Probability of selecting a student taking a chemistry course: 30/100


Probability of selecting a student taking a physics class: 40/100
Probability of selecting a student taking both classes: 20/100
Probability of a selecting a student taking chemistry OR a student taking physics:
30/100 + 40/100 - 20/100 = 50/100 or 1/2

There are 9 beads in a bag. 3 beads are red, 3 beads are


blue, and 3 beads are black. If two beads are chosen at
random, what is the probability that they are both blue?

A. 1/81
B. 1/12
C. 2/9
D. 1/3
E. 1/4

A letter is randomly selected from the word Mississippi.


What is the probability that the letter will be an s?

A. 1/11
B. 3/10
C. 4/11
D. 1/4
E. 1/3

A certain deck of cards contains 2 blue cards, 2 red cards,


2 yellow cards, and 2 green cards. If two cards are
randomly drawn from the deck, what is the probability that
they will both are not blue?

A. 15/28
B. 1/4
C. 9/16
D. 1/32
E. 1/16

A fair coin is tossed, and a fair six-sided die is rolled. What


is the probability that the coin come up heads and the die
will come up 1 or 2?

A. 1/2
B. 1/4
C. 1/6
D. 1/12
E. 1/3

A bag of 10 marbles contains 3 red marbles and 7 blue


marbles. If two marbles are selected at random, what is
the probability that at least one marble is blue?

A. 21/50
B. 3/13
C. 47/50
D. 14/15
E. 1/5
A fair, six-sided die is rolled.
What is the probability that
the number will be odd?

A. 1/4
B. 1/2
C. 1/3
D. 1/6
E. 1/5
A letter is randomly select
from the word studious.
What is the probability that
the letter be a U?

A. 1/8
B. 1/4
C. 1/3
D. 1/2
E. 3/8

A bag contains 2 red beads, 2 blue beads, and 2 green


beads. Sara randomly draws a bead from the bag, and
then Victor randomly draws a bead from the bag. What is
the probability that Sara will draw a red marble and Victor
will draw a blue marble?

A. 2/13
B. 1/5
C. 1/3
D. 1/10
E. 2/15

If two fair, six-sided dice are rolled, what is the probability


that the sum of the numbers will be 5?

A. 1/6
B. 1/4
C. 1/36
D. 1/18
E. 1/9

If four fair coins are tossed, what is the probability of all


four coming up heads?

A. 1/4
B. 1/6
C. 1/8
D. 1/16
E. 1/32

The probability that a certain event will occur is 5/9. What


is the probability that the event will NOT occur?

A. 5/9
B. 4/9
C. 2/9
D. 1/4
E. 1/2

A certain bag contains red, blue, yellow, and green


marbles. If a marble is randomly drawn from the bag, the
probability of drawing a blue marble is .2, the probability
of drawing a red marble is .3, and the probability of
drawing a yellow marble is .1. What is the probability of
drawing a green marble?

A. .5
B. .6
C. .2
D. .4
E. .3

A bag contains 3 red marbles, 3 blue marbles, and 3 green


marbles. If a marble is randomly drawn from the bag and
a fair, six-sided die is tossed, what is the probability of
obtaining a red marble and a 6?

A. 1/15
B. 1/6
C. 1/3
D. 1/4
E. 1/18

A fair, six-sided die is rolled. What is the probability of


obtaining a 3 or an odd number?
A. 1/6
B. 1/5
C. 1/4
D. 2/3
E. 1/2

At a certain business school, 400 students are members of


the sailing club, the wine club, or both. If 200 students are
members of the wine club and 50 students are members
of both clubs, what is the probability that a student chosen
at random is a member of the sailing club?

A. 1/2
B. 5/8
C. 1/4
D. 3/8
E. 3/5

A bag contains six marbles: two red, two blue, and two
green. If two marbles are drawn at random, what is the
probability that they are the same color?

A. 1/3
B. 1/2
C. 1/8
D. 1/4
E. 1/5

There are five students in a study group: two finance


majors and three accounting majors. If two students are
chosen at random, what is the probability that they are
both accounting students?

A. 3/10
B. 2/5
C. 1/5
D. 3/5
E. 4/5

Seven beads are in a bag: three blue, two red, and two
green. If three beads are randomly drawn from the bag,
what is the probability that they are not all blue?

A. 5/7
B. 23/24
C. 6/7
D. 34/35
E. 8/13
A bag has six red marbles and six blue marbles. If two
marbles are drawn randomly from the bag, what is the
probability that they will both be red?

A. 1/2
B. 11/12
C. 5/12
D. 5/22
E. 1/3